Culture, Nature, Adventure – Sikkim

I love travelling and learning about various places and cultures. I am supposed to (and I do 🙂 ) love nature considering that I am an environmental engineer by education and profession. And I love adventure. Plus, it was valentine’s day a couple of weeks ago. So what made for the perfect gift, other than the one I made? A trip to a place where I could get all three, and be back in about four days including travel (We all know how tough it is to get ‘off days’ from office). And that was the genesis of a weekend getaway to Gangtok. (Well, partly, as another MAJOR influence was a friend who wanted to travel there too.)

The trip was all that I wanted (Culture, Nature, Adventure is the official tourism catch phrase for Sikkim) and so much more. And while I have delayed writing on it for two weeks now, it’s because there was so much packed in those two days that I couldn’t figure out ow to accommodate all of that in a single post. After much deliberation (read, laziness) I have decided to just put the experiences of extremities placating my adventure buds in one post, local sightseeing in another and food and the rest in the third (Yes, I can’t leave out food, it adds to my experience and I am a foodie!). So, in this post, here is a brief account of the logistics should any of you want to plan a trip. Stay tuned for the next three 🙂

I travelled from Ranchi to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) via train (Kamakhya Express, which by the way was almost three hours delayed right before the start 😦 ) while my husband travelled from Kolkata to NJP and met me there after waiting for almost 6 hours courtesy the train delay (poor him). From NJP to Gangtok, we hired a cab. Due to some road maintenance/ extension, there was a traffic jam stretching to about two hours. As a result, we reached Gangtok at around 10 PM (about 6 hours later than when I had planned for, there goes few of the sites I had in my itinerary). Thankfully, we had booked the hotel previously and so we could just go and crash. The good thing about the crazy schedule setting us off track all the while was that we savoured some grapes, cookies and drinks on the way, while gazing dreamily at the beautiful Teesta river that flowed right beside the road all through the way.

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(The pictures are a little hazy as they were clicked through a moving vehicle.) The mighty river was flowing in its full glory, meandering and making beautiful picnic spots. It almost seemed as if there were beaches there. Add to it the fact that there was a dam construction going on midway, a scene worthy of being seen and captured forever in memory, what with star and moon light from above and lights at the construction site itself. It was beautiful and saved me from motional sickness either ways (up and down). And about that, no one can prepare you for hairpin bends and heights and constrained space in the road travel, you better get a few tablets of vomikind to let you be 🙂 When we crossed the boundary between West Bengal and Sikkim and entered Sikkim, our vehicle was checked and we were asked to provide our identity proofs. It felt weird when we were asked if we were all Indians, and the conversations with my friends about residents of North East India not relating to the Nation started flashing in my mind. But we were glad that we were finally in Sikkim!

I had made a list of places I wanted to visit during this trip – Ridge Park (for the flower show), Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology, Dodrul Chorten, Himalayan Zoological Park, Enchey Monastery, Tashi View Point, Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, Tsongo Lake, Baba Mandir (There is an interesting tale associated with Baba Mandir, and hence the added attraction) , Nathula, Gangtok Waterfalls (Bakhtang Waterfalls) and of course the MG Marg (the market place or down-town Gangtok, if I may call it so). I feared that we may not be able to visit all of these places in the one night-two days schedule that we had planned if I did not book the vehicle for the next day then and there itself. (We actually did manage to see nine out of these ten places though.)Thus, I spoke to the hotel reception at that ungodly hour about visiting Tsongo Lake, Nathula and Baba Mandir the next day. Now, I knew that we needed a permit to visit these places, what I did not know was that Nathula needed a 24 hour notice. Cancelling that spot was hard but necessary. We agreed for the lake and mandir after giving our identity proof and two passport size photographs each.

And then, we slept like babies owing to all the exhaustion of the travel, ready to hit the road next morning!

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